IRWIN, Pa. – Melissa Hensler got a "Most Unusual Pet" prize from her township two years ago for her pet rooster — but now the same township says the bird is a farm animal in a residential area and it's got to go.
The parents of the 13-year-old girl say they may file a lawsuit against the zoning decision by North Huntingdon Township officials.
Melissa has raised the rooster, named Sundae, and eight other chickens for six years. But in July, say parents Barb and Don Hensler, a neighbor complained that they were raising chickens, and the township's attitude changed.
The prize that Sundae won two years ago "is no substitute for township law," code enforcement officer David Stitt said.
"Chickens are farm animals. You can call them pets if you like, but they are still fowl," Stitt said.
A township board rejected the Henslers' request for a zoning exception, leading to their consideration of court action.
"I've already spent $250 for the first appeal. These chickens are not worth that much — maybe $1.75 or $2 — if you sold them," Don Hensler said. "We were just asking the township to allow us to keep our pets until they pass on."
Hensler said chickens typically live eight to 10 years.
"If I had to get rid of them, it would be like losing part of me," Melissa said. "I would be losing my children."